Epic boss Mike Capps speaks on industry uncertainty, $1 apps

The games industry is at an inflection point, Epic's president has said, with factors including 99¢ apps making the future uncertain.

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The games industry is presently at "an inflection point," Epic Games president Mike Capps has told Industry Gamers. Uncertain factors including digital distribution, the rise of mobile gaming and a focus on online play has lead the Gears of War 3 developer and Unreal Engine maker to ponder where things might be headed.

"If there's anything that's killing us [in the traditional games business] it's dollar apps," said Capps. "How do you sell someone a $60 game that's really worth it ... They're used to 99 cents. As I said, it's an uncertain time in the industry. But it's an exciting time for whoever picks the right path and wins."

Capps doesn't seem to view 99¢ apps as the death of $60 AAA games--not yet, at least--but more a big part of the many changes currently sweeping the industry.

"We have not been this uncertain about what's coming next in the games industry since Epic's been around for 20 years. We're at such an inflection point. Will there be physical distribution in 10 years or even five? Will anyone care about the next console generation? What's going on in PC? Can you make money on PC if it's not a connected game? What's going on in mobile?" he reflected.

"Tons of really scary things... It used to be, 'Well, of course PlayStation 3 will be successful because PS2 was amazingly successful.' But can you say for sure that you know everyone's going to jump to the next generation? I sure hope so--I'm going to try to make some great tech that will make everyone want to. But it's scary."

Epic recently unveiled an Unreal Engine 3 tech demo named Samaritan, a vision of what the developer "wants to see in the next generation of games."

The developer has already dipped its toe into games for Apple's magical portable devices. Unreal Engine now runs on iOS, and Epic has released the free tech demo Epic Citadel and $5.99 game Infinity Blade. While $6 is certainly less than $60 and Infinity Blade is indeed very pretty, it's still a big price ticket on a platform where 99¢ is considered to be the norm, and many happily subsist purely on games offered free in promotions.

Let's not forget that Epic Games made its name with shareware, the business model which routinely offered a quarter of a game to all for free. It's a far cry from the company's present way of doing business, where getting to play a game before release is a bonus, downloadable content is announced on launch day, and a demo can arrive six weeks after the game launches.

Whatever happens, with fingers in both tech and development pies, Epic is well-positioned to ride out the coming storm. Its tech is likely to be used by the next round of big fancy pretty games, both on consoles and mobile, and the company has a proven game development track record along with a fine established studio.

If industry changes sparked by competition from 99¢ apps mean one no longer waits for the inevitable mega-sale or DLC-packed Game of the Year Edition before buying a game, well, that'd just be the icing on the cake.

From The Chatty

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    April 20, 2011 11:15 AM

    Comment on Epic boss Mike Capps speaks on industry uncertainty, $1 apps, by Alice O'Connor.

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      April 20, 2011 11:18 AM

      "What's going on in PC? Can you make money on PC if it's not a connected game?" This coming from Epic who turned their backs to PC? Are they really that fucking dumb?

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        April 20, 2011 11:21 AM

        I pretty much ignore anything that comes out of Epic now days except their games.

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        April 20, 2011 11:47 AM

        Yeah, I kinda thought the same thing. Epic wanted to attract to a larger mainstream audience and now it's going to bite back at them while they gave up on their core audience.

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          April 20, 2011 11:58 AM

          Bite back at them? Where? Unreal tech still seems like it's practically a standard for next gen as well as the remainder of this gen. They've proven their tech on iOS in the more casual space and helped folks like Chair put out mid range downloadable stuff. Anything they do on PC will be perfectly successful if the quality is there.

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            April 20, 2011 12:06 PM

            My comment was gamefaqs'ish. But I what I understood is he's worried like Nintendo that the audience they are trying to get are going to be happy with $1 games instead of $60.

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              April 20, 2011 12:15 PM

              well, I can say I definitely stopped buying $40 DS games due to $1-5 mobile games. It distorts the value propositions for sure.

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                April 20, 2011 12:19 PM

                I don't think anyone will disagree with you there, once portable games went beyond $20, unless it's AAA awesome I wouldn't touch it.

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                April 20, 2011 2:37 PM

                I've been buying noticeably less $50-$60 games and more $5 - $10.

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        April 20, 2011 11:47 AM

        What does he mean by "connected"? Multiplayer?

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          April 20, 2011 11:50 AM

          MMOs maybe?

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          April 20, 2011 11:55 AM

          social elements to create hooks and go viral. Real time multiplayer is one way, asynchronous multiplayer is another, but there are other ways like what Facebook games do

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            April 20, 2011 1:25 PM

            So basically the same sort of thing EA was saying a while ago?

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          April 20, 2011 11:57 AM

          i assume something like Steam.

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        April 20, 2011 2:02 PM

        Yes they are. They have a engine that can easily port any of there games to the PC with ease but yet they don't bother.

        How much did Minecraft make already? How much did Starcraft 2 make? And others as well.

        Anyways like you said they pissed all over the PC crew, why do they even bother with such stupid questions.

        If you make good games it can sell on any platform its really that simple.

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          April 20, 2011 2:32 PM

          using what are essentially lottery winners (Minecraft) as existence proofs aren't very useful. They ported UT3 and some of the Gears franchise. Delayed vs the console releases, but no more so than Rockstar and they're not getting similar hate. The PC crew also gave them no slack the moment they did a console exclusive despite all the great value and free content they'd provided in UT for years.

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            April 20, 2011 2:52 PM

            Peggle, torchlight, magicka are all doing decently (I haven't seen sales number for the latter two).

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              April 20, 2011 3:00 PM

              Right, but those aren't the type of games Epic likes to make (by which I mean sub $20 titles), although they have helped others to do so like Chair with Shadow Complex. And they're significantly different from Minecraft afaik

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          April 20, 2011 2:54 PM

          Minecraft and Starcraft 2 have fairly substantial "connected" components though.

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          April 20, 2011 4:12 PM

          Minecraft didn't make enough to even remotely pay for the development costs of something like Gears.

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        April 20, 2011 4:41 PM

        i don't think they turned their back, i mean they release probably one of the best development kits out there.

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        April 21, 2011 12:21 PM

        It's not a lie that PC games don't make the money that console games make. They are a business, they are not in existence just to please whiny gamers who feel they are entitled to everything without paying for it.

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          April 21, 2011 1:27 PM

          Thats obvious that PC games don't pull as much money as consoles but that in no way means that there is zero market for PC. Just look at the successful PC developers out here who DO IT RIGHT. Oh yeah and what's with this "whiny PC gamer" comment I keep hearing? Just because we have the fucking balls to speak up about a shitty game or lack of games (EPIC you fucks) doesn't mean we are whiners. If we don't speak up about dumb ass decisions from these company's ie Ubisoft and their retarded DRM choice then they will continue to steamroll raw shit all over us.

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            April 22, 2011 8:14 AM

            Have you read any thread on shack about any game? It's a bunch of whining.. whether it's about PC games or console games or release dates, or DLC, or DRM, or the best game ever, or the worst game ever. Gamers are some of the biggest whiners around, even when there is nothing to whine about. I still consider myself a PC gamer even though I play more games on the consoles... and it's almost embarassing to be associated with that crowd.

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            April 22, 2011 8:34 AM

            It's not just about there being a market for PC games.. it's a business decision based on cost of development vs. expected sales. With fewer sales there will be fewer developers willing to put the money into PC games. Just look at the PSP, with fewer and fewer people buying games (whether it's due to piracy, smartphones or quality) the developers stopped making games for it.

            Similar thing has happened with PC games over the last five years. PC games have a high cost of entry for the consumer so there are fewer of them, higher development costs for the developer due to compatibility, and a more significant piracy problem. Consoles are cheap to buy so there are a lot more consumers, cheaper to develop for, and are a bit better at controlling piracy.

            I'm tired of hearing posts like yours saying so and so developer turned there backs on the PC gaming community! Or that they suck because they don't put as much effort into their PC games! The sooner you grow up and realize it's a business that has hundreds of employees that will lose their jobs if they don't generate sales, the sooner you will realize how ridiculous you sound.

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              April 22, 2011 6:46 PM

              Did you even read my damn post? I said there is money to be made on the PC and keep their businesses up and growing IF THEY DO IT RIGHT. If you are a PC gamer then their is no need to explain what companies these are. I am fucking sick and tired of listening to these developers whine a cry about a PC version of a game not selling because of the piracy bandwagon or some other dumb excuse little realizing that their port of a game was shit from the get go and their lack of commitment to the platform caused its own demise. I don't sound as ridiculous as you are making me out to be. Try looking at the flip side of the coin instead of pointing the finger at "whiny PC gamers." I for one do not like to sit back and get butt fucked out of 50-60 dollars for a shitty game without expressing my opinion (Homefront).

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      April 20, 2011 11:34 AM

      The only people that are "used to 99 cents" are the people who don't play on consoles to begin with - I guess if you think they are the savior of the gaming business, go after em. I tend to think that people who have bought normal retail games for years won't just stop because Angry Birds is fun.

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      April 20, 2011 11:55 AM

      I certainly don't buy many games now that they're $60 a pop. I buy maybe 2 or 3 titles a year at that price, and probably another 5 when they're $50 or less. Everything else I rent or buy on iOS for a buck-ish.

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        April 20, 2011 12:17 PM

        I think one problem is not _every_ game has to be $60. There should really be a range of prices. I guess they can always drop the price later if the game bombs, but maybe a studio would allocate resources differently if they knew they were going to sell initially for $40.

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        April 20, 2011 7:37 PM

        But there are always the folks that will buy at that price that keeps that shit going. Build the boner, sell high and as the erection starts to weaken, start lowering prices to keep it up.

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        April 20, 2011 8:06 PM

        Very few games I buy full price on launch day: 2-3 per year. Rest are in the $20-$40 range, especially if I know there will be quality DLC.

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      April 20, 2011 12:26 PM

      I buy more games at $10-15 because there's less risk if it sucks and I can get through them easier

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      April 20, 2011 1:09 PM

      Since games went to $59.99 from $49.99 even on the PC boxed and digital(which is a joke), I haven't bought many. The 49.99 fit perfectly for PC.

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        April 20, 2011 1:13 PM

        just dont get them at release. they all go down in price eventually (except CoD Blops - still waiting it to go on sale)

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          April 20, 2011 4:03 PM

          MW2 just dropped to 40... took over a year for that drop...

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        April 20, 2011 2:36 PM

        Also, resale value approaching zero. ESPECIALLY for newer games.

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          April 20, 2011 4:35 PM

          The side effect of killing off resale value with things like "online pass" and DRM tie-ins is that it heightens the investment risk of a $60 game (not that one would make money off of that investment, but if the game sucks, that's $60 wasted; Homefront was a good example this year).

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            April 20, 2011 8:08 PM

            This is the major reason why I buy so few games (console or PC but especially PC) on launch day. The game has to be a sure thing if I am going to pay day one street price.

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      April 20, 2011 1:40 PM

      The problem is so few games are worth $60.

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        April 20, 2011 2:23 PM

        Yet so many keep trying to make them.

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      April 20, 2011 2:37 PM

      Sell your $60 game in one dollar increments.

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        April 20, 2011 4:03 PM

        LMAO!!!....

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        April 20, 2011 4:21 PM

        Lionhead Studios tried this with Fable actually (I forget which one).

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          April 20, 2011 4:21 PM

          And obviously not one dollar increments but you get the idea.

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      April 20, 2011 2:38 PM

      No you can't make money on PC Mike Capps go away. You know I like shooter games, but I like good shooter games. For a while I was sad that we lost Epic cause they made such good shooter games, but then I realised Gears of War sucks and I don't miss Epic anymore.

      Bulletstorm was 'kay and fun, but then that did come out on PC.

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        April 20, 2011 3:01 PM

        And was developed by People Can Fly.

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        April 20, 2011 4:22 PM

        Gears of War is awesome I don't know what kind of fanboy rage you are having?

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          April 20, 2011 5:12 PM

          Is there something I'm supposed to be specifically a fanboy of that makes me hate Gears, or am I just a fanboy cause 'fanboy' sounds bad? Cause if we're doing the second thing than from now on I'd like to refer to people who like Gears as Hitlers. For context, I'll use it in a sentence:

          "Hitlers need to get a better taste in games."

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        April 20, 2011 8:14 PM

        I play Gears of War for the coop which is great fun. Mutiplayer is nice to horse around with but I don't play it seriously like CSS or Battlefield. However, I've found that the kids that play Gears online are even more juvenile and more obsessed with their stats than the CoD or Halo player base. Conversely, the player base is nowhere near as large but Gears of War made me a believer in the term "bro-gamer".

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      April 20, 2011 2:45 PM

      q"How do you sell someone a $60 game that's really worth it ... "]q

      I guess you'd know if you actually made a game that was worth $60.

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      April 20, 2011 5:09 PM

      Is Epic publicly traded? If I were a shareholder I'd demand half of these blokes were tipped out, cause every time they speak about a 'big issue' I cringe.

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        April 20, 2011 5:46 PM

        If you had the money to be a major shareholder you wouldn't care about what they say about anything but earnings.

        I'm kind of glad that tue big companies are getting honest. Creates more opportunities on the low end because the devs are less likely to buy into a lie.

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        April 21, 2011 12:27 PM

        You clearly don't know anything about how businesses or investments work. As a shareholder you want them to make money so the perceived value of the company rises, so your investment turns a profit... And the best way to currently make money with AAA games is to sell them on the consoles. QQ

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      April 20, 2011 5:11 PM

      It's nice to hear from somebody at epic that isn't full of crazy.